Facts in News

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    Facts in News

    Indira Gandhi Canal

    Recently, the repair and relining of the Indira Gandhi Canal has been accomplished, restoring 70 km of both the main canal and the feeder distributaries in Rajasthan and parts of Punjab.

    • Previously known as the Rajasthan Canal, it was renamed the Indira Gandhi Canal on 2nd November 1984
    • The country’s longest canal terminates in irrigation facilities in the Thar desert.
    • Origin: Harike barrage, Punjab at the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers.
      • From Harike, 204 km long Feeder off-takes and enters in Rajasthan at Hanumangarh
      • From the tail of Feeder, 445 km long main canal starts which passes through Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner and ends at Mohangarh in Jaisalmer.
    • The Project was envisaged for utilization of 7.59 MAF water out of Rajasthan’s share in surplus water of Ravi-Beas rivers.
    • Objective: To meet drinking and irrigation needs of 1.75 crore people as well as numerous cattle, Army cantonment along the International Border and industrial usage in the border districts.
    • Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) System: It has been installed for effective control on water regulation and distribution in canals through latest techniques.
    • Benefits
      • Annual irrigation in otherwise dry region.
      • Regular supply of drinking water to villages, towns and cities of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Churu, Nagaur and Barmer.
      • Supply of water for power generation.
      • Elimination of drought conditions.
      • Rise in ground water table.
      • Remarkable improvement in socio-economic conditions of the people and increase in all economic activities.

    (Image Courtesy: NROER)

    Biotech KISAN Programme

    Recently, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has issued a Special Call for the North East Region (NER) as a part of Biotech-Krishi Innovation Science Application Network (KISAN).

    • Biotech-KISAN is a scientist-farmer partnership scheme launched in 2017 for agriculture innovation.
    • Aim: To connect science laboratories with the farmers to find out innovative solutions and technologies to be applied at farm level.
    • Developed by: DBT, Ministry of Science and Technology.
    • The pan-India programme follows a hub-and-spoke model and stimulates entrepreneurship and innovation in farmers.
    • Best global farm management and practices are brought to farmers’ notice.
    • The Special Call aims to understand the local problems of the NER farmers and provide scientific solutions to those problems.
      • 70 per cent of the workforce in NER is engaged in agriculture, yet it produces only 1.5 per cent of the country’s food grain and imports food grains.
      • The NER has untapped potential to enhance the income by promotion of location specific crops, horticultural and plantation crops, fisheries and livestock production.
    • The Biotech-KISAN in NER will link innovative agriculture technologies to the farm with the small and marginal farmers, specially women farmers of the region.

    Turbidity Current

    Recently, an underwater avalanche, also known as a turbidity current, has sent mud and sand more than 1,000 km out into the ocean on Africa’s western coast, from the mouth of the Congo River.

    (Image Courtesy: BBC)

    • A turbidity current is a rapid, downhill flow of sediment-laden water that occurs in lakes and oceans.
      • Turbidity is a measure of the level of particles such as sediment, plankton, or organic by-products, in a body of water.
      • As the turbidity of water increases, it becomes denser and less clear due to a higher concentration of these light-blocking particles.
    • Causes
      • Turbidity currents can be set into motion when mud and sand on the continental shelf are loosened by earthquakes, collapsing slopes, and other geological disturbances.
      • The turbid water then rushes downward like an avalanche, picking up sediment and increasing in speed as it flows.
    • Impact
      • These can change the physical shape of the seafloor by eroding large areas and creating underwater canyons.
      • These currents also deposit huge amounts of sediment wherever they flow, usually in a gradient or fan pattern, with the largest particles at the bottom and the smallest ones on top.
    • Measurement and Tracking
      • Current meters, attached with turbidity sensors, are used to gather data near underwater volcanoes and other highly active geological sites.
      • Satellite imagery is used to observe turbidity by measuring the amount of light that is reflected by a section of water.

    (Image Courtesy: NOAA)

    Nipah Virus

    • The Indian Council of Medical Research- National Institute of Virology has picked up samples with the presence of antibodies against the Nipah virus in some bat species from a cave in Mahabaleshwar to study the prevalence of Nipah virus (NiV) in bats of India.

    Nipah virus (NiV)

    • It is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans) and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people.
    • Presumably, the first incidence of Nipah virus infection occurred when pigs in Malaysian farms came in contact with the bats who had lost their habitats due to deforestation.
    • The infection is also known to affect human beings. 
      • The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
    • The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%. This rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.

    Transmission

    • The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. 
    • The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids. 
    • Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family and caregivers of infected patients.

    Symptoms

    •  In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. 
    • The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.  

    Past Outbreaks 

    • Nipah virus was first recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia. No new outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia since 1999. 
    • It was also recognized in Bangladesh in 2001, and nearly annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since. The disease has also been identified periodically in eastern India.

    Treatment

    • There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection although WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint.  
    • Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.

    Image Courtesy: WHO

    All India House Price Index

    • Reserve Bank of India has released its quarterly House Price Index (HPI) (base: 2010-11=100) for Q4:2020-21, based on transaction-level data received from housing registration authorities in ten major cities (viz., Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Kanpur, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai). 
    • All-India HPI increased (year -on-year basis) by 2.7% in Q4:2020-21 vis-a-vis 3.9% growth a year ago.
    • HPI growth showed large variation across major cities, from an increase of 15.7% (Bengaluru) to a contraction of -3.6% (Jaipur). 
    • On a sequential (q-o-q) basis, all-India HPI growth rate moderated to 0.2% in Q4:2020-21; Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Jaipur recorded a sequential decline in HPI, whereas it increased for other cities

    Gain-of-Function Research

    • The Wuhan Institute of Virology was said to have conducted gain-of-function research on coronaviruses.
    • In virology, gain-of-function research involves deliberately altering an organism in the lab, altering a gene, or introducing a mutation in a pathogen to study its transmissibility, virulence and immunogenicity.
    •  It is believed that this allows researchers to study potential therapies, vaccine possibilities and ways to control the disease better in future. 
    • Gain-of-function research involves manipulations that make certain pathogenic microbes more deadly or more transmissible. 
    • This is done by genetically engineering the virus and by allowing them to grow in different growth mediums, a technique called serial passage.
      • There is also ‘loss-of-function’ research, which involves inactivating mutations, resulting in a significant loss of original function, or no function to the pathogen. 
      • When mutations occur, they alter the structure of the virus that is being studied, resulting in altered functions. 
      • Some of these significant mutations might weaken the virus or enhance its function.
    • Some forms of gain-of-function research reportedly carry inherent biosafety and biosecurity risks and are thus referred to as ‘dual-use research of concern’ (DURC). 
      • This indicates that while the research may result in benefits for humanity, there is also the potential to cause harm — accidental or deliberate escape of these altered pathogens from labs may even cause pandemics.

    Situation in India

    • In India, all activities related to genetically engineered organisms or cells and hazardous microorganisms and products are regulated as per the “Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989”. 
    • Last year 2020 , the Department of Biotechnology issued guidelines for the establishment of containment facilities, called ‘Biosafety labs’, at levels two and three. 
      • The notification provides operational guidance on the containment of biohazards and levels of biosafety that all institutions involved in research, development and handling of these microorganisms must comply with.